There are no easy ones in the Jayhawk Conference Western Division, and the Cloud County Thunderbirds kicked off a particularly difficult eight-day stretch by defeating 10th-ranked Garden City Community College 67-58 Saturday night in Bryant Gymnasium.
The T-Birds will travel to El Dorado to take on 15-4 Butler County on Wednesday night, and then return home to host unbeaten and number one ranked Hutchinson on Saturday.
Cloud County never trailed in the win over Garden City.
The T-Birds built a 37-23 halftime lead.
Garden City closed the gap to five points in the second half before a 10-2 Cloud County made it a13-point game.
The Broncbusters got no closer than six points after that.
“It was about as close to a must win situation as you will have,” Cloud County coach Brett Erkenbrack said, “Playing a team that is 18-1, and going to Butler, which is a good team, and then coming back home for Hutch, it is a tough stretch.”
It was the ninth straight win for the T-Birds, who improved to 15-4 overall. They lead the Jayhawk West at 5-0.
Hutchinson is currently 4-0.
Jordyn Alexander, a 5-11 freshman from Washington, poured in 26 points and grabbed nine rebounds in leading the way for Cloud County.
“That was one heck of a performance by Jordyn Alexander. We needed all of it from her,” Erkenbrack said.
Alexander was 6 of 12 from the field and 14 of 17 from the free throw line.
The game was tied at 2-2 when a three-point basket by Aleesha Coulter and a jumper by Pearlrae Thomas put Cloud County on top to stay, 7-2.
Leading 9-6, the T-Birds put together a 14-5 spurt to open up a 23-11 advantage.
Ajai Ford knocked down a pair of threes, and Coulter hit another.
Ford was three of three from three-point range in scoring 13 points.
Coulter chipped in 10 points.
Garden City, which was without three players who started the season, and had just eight on the roster, battled back to within six points, 25-19, when Allegria Chisom hit from 10 feet with 7:26 to play in the first half.
“Garden City is a little shorthanded right now, but they are still a tough team to beat,” Erkenbrack said, “They have solid players at every position.”
Leading 27-21, Cloud County got two free throws by Kamika Mason, a basket by Raneisha Duncan, two free throws by Ford and a bucket by Alexander to go up 35-21.
The T-Birds led 37-23 at halftime.
Alexander scored eight of Cloud County’s first 10 points in the second half, but the Broncbusters were keeping pace.
Trailing 48-35, Garden City pumped in eight straight points, six by Tamara Jones, to close the gap to 48-43.
Jones scored 19 points and pulled down 10 rebounds.
“Tamara Jones is as good as anyone in the Conference,” Erkenbrack said.
Alexander and Mason combined for eight points as Cloud County responded with a 10-2 spurt to make it a 58-45 game.
Garden City, 18-2 overall and 4-2 in the Conference, whittled away at the deficit, and got within six points, 63-57, when Angelique Green hit a three with 49 seconds on the clock.
Cloud County hit four of six free throws over the final 48 seconds to secure the win.
“I thought we played tired tonight. Part of that is we have got a little sickness, and part of it is the Conference is just a grinding, grueling deal,” Erkenbrack said.
Cloud County hit 19 of 42 field goal attempts for 45 percent and 24 of 34 free throws for 71 percent.
Deni Jacobs scored 14 points for Garden City.
The Broncbusters were 20 of 60 from the floor for 33 percent and 17 of 30 from the line for 57 percent.